In this paper, we will be discussing Freud’s impact on Psychology. We will deep dive into what exactly made Freud the Father of Psychology and his journey leading up to it. We will learn how his theories, mainly psychoanalysis, still affect the field today despite his passing in 1939. Understanding his early life will help us see how his childhood memories helped shape his future theories. We will also dissect the inner mind behind Freud and his reasonings for why he believed in what he did. Moreover, we will discuss how his overall influence in psychology then and now.
Freud’s Early Life
Sigmund Freud was born on May 6th, 1856 in a small town that is now known as Czechoslovakia. He was born into a Jewish family and often received discrimination for this. In Chapter 1 of The Life of Sigmund Freud, written by Michael Jacobs, he quotes Freud saying he was “expected to feel myself inferior and an alien because I was a Jew” during University (1999, p. 7). He attached himself to this aspect of his background, and it indicated one of the reasons for his readiness to see the rejection of his ideas (Jacobs, 1999, p. 7). Other memories of Freud’s childhood give rise to questioning about the influence of various incidents upon his later theories, although some of his memories have since been shown to be inaccurate, and based largely upon his dreams in later life (Jacobs, 1999, p.7).
Freud was about four years old when his family moved to Vienna, Austria and stayed there until 1938. Freud was very well educated. In Chapter 1 of Michael Jacob’s book, The Life of Sigmund Freud, he quotes Freud saying, “I was at the top of my class for seven years” (1999, p. 7). While Freud’s father wanted him to pursue a career in the health field, he did not feel the same towards this option at first. Michael Jacobs quoted Freud in Chapter 1 of The Life of Sigmund Freud, about his thoughts on his future career “neither at that time, nor indeed in my later life, did I feel any particular predilection for the career of a doctor” (1999, p. 9). Freud’s initial desire was to study law but Darwin’s theories, topical interest, and an essay on nature was when he decided to become a medical student (Jacobs, p. 9).
Freud’s Previous Experience
Freud received his Doctor of Medicine in 1881. Throughout his time in medical school and over a span of six years, Freud worked in research laboratories. During this time spent on research, Freud studied the central nervous system in fish as well as the sexual organs of the common eel (Jacobs, 1999, p. 10). Freud’s research was very detailed and important but he often failed to see some of his research through far enough to earn the honour of major achievement (Jacobs, 1999, p.10). Michael Jacobs quotes Freud’s biographer, Ernest Jones, in The Life of Sigmund Freud. Vol. I. The formative years and the great discoveries: 1856-1900, saying “that Freud narrowly missed world fame in early life through not daring to pursue his thoughts to their logical – and not far-off – conclusion” (1999, p.10).
In 1882, Freud moved from the laboratory to the world of general hospital (Jacobs, 1999, p.11). In this time he met Martha Bernays, who would soon become his wife. It was his intense desire to marry that awoke professional aspiration in him, which is what eventually lead his to fame (Boring, 1954, p. 433). Yet before he was to get married, he took an intellectual journey and a geographical tour. This trip would provide him with the ideas that would be needed for the development of psychoanalysis.
Freud explored the areas in a general hospital, and during this he discovered the medical properties of cocaine and its value for internal use as an analgesic and euphoric (Boring, 1954, p. 433). After this discovery, Freud was quick to advertise this substance as a non-habit-forming drug, which he later lived to regret. Yet Freud missed out on the opportunity to use cocaine externally by injection as a local anesthetic (Boring, 1954, p. 434). In a peer-reviewed journal of Enerst Jones book, The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud, its says “he[Freud] handed the preliminary indications of this application over to someone else, who presently and quite properly got the credit” (Boring, 1954, p. 434). If Freud would have stayed in Vienna to proceeded with the experiment on cocaine, it would have undoubtedly advanced his career.
Before switching to the field of psychology, Freud was still certain that histology and morphology were easily the best biological authority. He was easily conceived as a physicalist, who preferred easy, functional explanation and said to have disliked what was considered psychology during his time (Boiring, p.343). In Chapter 1 of Michael Jacobs book, The Life of Sigmund Freud, it says that in 1885 Freud was “appointed Lecturer in Neuropathology at the University in Vienna on the strength of his clinical publications; and, with the assistance of a bursary, travelled to Paris to study under Charcot, Professor of Neuropathology” (Boring, 1954, p. 11). While studying under Charcot, he witnessed hypnosis that was used to cure symptoms of paralysis of limbs and senses. It was during this shadowing that Freud began accepting the theory of psychology. In a peer-reviewed journal of Ernest Jones book, The life and work of Sigmund Freud. Vol. I. The formative years and the great discoveries: 1856-1900, it says Freud “turned to psychology, still recognizing the values of the Helmholtz school by characterizing the new psychological principles as ‘mechanisms’ (Boring, 1954, p. 434).
Freud then worked with Josef Breuer, who believed in him. Breuer would lend Freud money, not expecting any repayment. He believed in Freud’s research and his thoughts. In a peer-reviewed journal of Ernest Jones’s book, The life and work of Sigmund Freud. Vol. I. The formative years and the great discoveries: 1856-1900, “it was Breuer who discovered the cathartic method[required doctor to listen without actively seeking etiological clues] and thus in a way began psychoanalysis” (Boring, 1954, p.434-435). The first case in psychoanalysis history would be the case of Anna O.
In the case of Anna O, Breuer used hypnosis and the cathartic method(talk therapy) almost daily with her and in Chapter 1 of The Life of Sigmund Freud, written by Michael Jacobs, she states “being able to recall memories and to discharge emotions that she was unable to get in touch with in her normal waking self” (Jacobs, 1999, p.14). However, on the evening that Breuer told Freud that Anna O’s symptoms were controlled, she experienced abdominal cramps and talked of expecting Breur’s child. It is said that Anna O fantasized too much for Breur, who seemingly couldn’t handle this.
Freud and his Theories
Throughout Freud’s career, he had many theories. The biggest one is psychoanalysis, which was a method of analyzing and treating (emotional)disorders. In a book written by Matthew Shape and Joanne Faulkner, Understanding Psychoanalysis, it explains what psychoanalysis was based on the “idea that a person’s – the analysand’s – recollection of the original cause of their illness, in the presence of their doctor – the analyst – is somehow therapeutic” (2008, p. 4). Treatment sessions were held in which the patient was encouraged to talk about their personal experiences, mainly involving early childhood memories and dreams. Freud’s belief was that people could be cured simply by becoming aware of their unconscious thoughts and urges. The aim of psychoanalysis therapy was to help release suppressed emotions and experiences that were buried within the unconscious mind.
Freud did not discover the concept of the unconscious, rather he gave it a term to what it meant. In Chapter 2 of The Life of Sigmund Freud, author Michael Jacobs quotes Freud saying the “‘Unconscious’ is no longer the name of what is latent at the moment; the unconscious is a particular realm of the mind with its own wishful impulses, its own mode of expression and its particular mental mechanisms which are not in force elsewhere” (1999, p. 28). He defined this due to believing that there was a place in one’s mind where what was deemed unacceptable in the conscious was held, and often reemerged in the conscious mind from time to time.
Freud’s Later Life
In the last years of his life, Freud only took patients who were training to become analysts. In a peer-reviewed journal of Ernest Jones book, The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud, Vol.3: The Last Phase, Freud was still very active in psychology even in his older age, “the way in which in his late seventies and early eighties his mind continued to flourish, the way in which he was able to pick up earlier thoughts and develop them, and the way in which he was able to prune away constructs which had once been central” (Axelrad, 1959, p. 205).
Although Freud suffered immensely from his cancer, he still continued to work. Some of his most important writings came from his last years, which included crucial revisions to the structural theory of the nature of anxiety. Sigmund Freud passed away on September 23rd, 1939 from cancer.
Freud’s Lasting Effect
Despite the criticism surrounding psychoanalysis, many therapists and counselors who are not psychoanalytic are critical of this technique, saying it is a cold and detached method. Also saying that psychoanalysis, through interpretation, presumes to know answers (Jacocs, 1999, p. 53). However, this method played an important role in the development of psychology. It guided our approach in the treatment of mental health and continues to bring an influence in the psychological field to this day. In a book written by Matthew Sharpe and Joanne Faulkner, Understanding Psychoanalysis, they express how “psychoanalysis began in the clinical practice of treating analysands such as Anna O. Yet it quickly became an international institution, and a movement of thought that has affected almost all walks of modern culture, from avant-garde art to popular expressions” (2008, p. 5). In a peer-reviewed journal of Ernest Jones book, The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud, Vol.3: The Last Phase, he explains that “if psychoanalysis has taught us anything, it is about the relationship between effect and activity” (1959, p. 207). Sigmund Freud had his faults. However, he contributed to the field of psychology on a larger scale than anyone could have imagined during his time. He influenced thought in psychology and civilization more than any other person in psychology to date. Some believed he will always be considered one of the founders of the basis of psychology and how it has evolved to what it is today and how it will evolve to in the future.